Five Surprising Facts about Food and Nutrition

1. There is no one perfect diet for humans 

Most health and wellbeing articles will feature the latest opinions on the perfect diet – low fat, low carb, high protein, low protein, low calorie, fasting – the list goes on.  But humans are incredibly adaptable when it comes to diet – it’s one of the reasons we have been so successful as a species.  If you look at traditional diets from around the world you will see that human populations have thrived on a whole range of diets.

For example the Inuits had a diet incredibly high in saturated fat and extremely low in fruits and vegetables.  Maasai warriors in Africa thrive on the dairy products from their cattle – again a diet high in saturated fats.  Asian populations fared well on a high carbohydrate diet of refined white rice mixed with vegetables and very small amounts of protein. Other diets such as the French and Mediterranean diets were also incredibly diverse in terms of nutrient ratios but in all cases the populations were very healthy.

When it comes to choosing the perfect diet the common key seems to be eat home-made meals with fresh ingredients.  Ditch the well meaning advice of those who want to promote ‘one diet for all’ because we aren’t all the same.  Take time to see and feel how certain foods and ratios of macro nutrients affect you personally.

2. Cholesterol is a vital substance

Cholesterol has long been labeled a ‘bad guy’ and the worldwide market for statin drugs to lower cholesterol levels is worth an estimated $29 billion.

What may come as a surprise is that cholesterol is a vital substance that the body manufactures and is used in a whole range of functions ranging from healthy nerve function and hormone production to liver, brain, bone, intestinal and cellular health.

The opinion that dietary cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol is becoming more accepted in the medical arena, as is the opinion that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease but more akin to being the canary in the coal mine, and that simply lowering cholesterol through drugs does not address the underlying health problem.

So when it comes to your personal diet remember that foods containing cholesterol (animal products) will not directly increase cholesterol levels in your blood and will not cause heart disease.

3. You are not what you eat – you are what you metabolise

You can eat the healthiest diet in the world but until the nutrients are taken in by a cell, it is not fully metabolised.  There may be lots of reasons why the cells are unable to take up the nutrients.  Keeping stress under control is important, but another key factor may just be your individual inability to digest certain foods properly.  So again, don’t eat certain foods because they are said to be healthy – eat them because you can feel their positive effects on your own body.

Signs of a healthy metabolism include a normal body temperature, steady moods, ability to handle stress, healthy hair, skin and nails, good digestion and normal bowel movements, good sleep patterns, consistent energy, steady blood sugar, balanced hormones and a healthy sex drive.

4. Food is not a religion

Some people spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to perfect their diet, meticulously preparing food, travelling far and wide to get the best possible ingredients and never going out with friends and family for meals in fear of what they might have to eat.

It’s great to eat healthy as much as possible but remember that the body is pretty adaptable and forgiving.  Sometimes it’s better for you to eat a less than perfect meal but thoroughly enjoy the social interaction that it provides.

Instead of using all your energy locked into never ending food battles, use your energy to do something worthwhile – spend time with your kids or your partner, do something just for fun or make a contribution back to society through volunteer work.

Food is wonderful – but don’t obsess.

5. Your body knows what it needs

Sometimes our food choices are made using cognitive thought, willpower and discipline.  We ‘know’ what we should eat and eat it despite the body craving something else.

You body knows what it needs much better than your mind.  Unfortunately the mind is not always right – it can be held to ransom by incorrect beliefs and knowledge.  Cravings are not always an evil universe conspiring against you – it may be your body trying to tell you that it needs more calories or more of a particular nutrient.

If you are craving for 10 packets of chocolate biscuits that’s not a message from your physical body – it’s more likely a message from your emotional body that there is some emotional issue that needs resolution.

Learn to listen to these messages from the body and learn to trust in the innate wisdom it contains.